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Charles J. Dugan

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Aviator and businessman
Charles J. "Chuck" Dugan of Henderson, Nev., passed away peacefully Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008, in Alamogordo following a long illness bravely borne. Charles was born Sept. 4, 1921, in Bend, Ore., to Charles J. Dugan and Anna W. Dugan.
He attended the University of Washington in Seattle, where he rowed on the crew his freshman year. From he was a boy, Charles was fascinated with aviation and knew someday he would be a pilot. While attending Washington University, he had the opportunity to enroll in a government-sponsored civilian pilot training program. He soloed on Lake Union, Seattle, in a J3 Piper Cub on floats and earned his private pilot's license in 1940. After completing advanced CPT, he received his commercial pilot's license in 1941. At the end of his third year at university, Charles joined the Navy. He was commissioned as an ensign and received his wings at the Naval Air Station at Corpus Christi, Texas, in July 1942.
Charles was assigned as a fighter pilot, flying FM-2s, to composite squadron VC10 under the command of Cmdr. E.J. Huxtable. The squadron was assigned to the escort carrier USS Gambier Bay, CVE 73, which left San Diego on her maiden voyage. Her mission was to cover the marine landing forces at Saipan, Tinian and Guam in the Marianas. Charles was promoted to lieutenant junior grade after the Saipan liberation in 1944.
The USS Gambier Bay saw further combat in the Palaus and in the Philippines at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, during which the Gambier Bay was sunk off Samar by fire from the Japanese ship Yamato. Many lives were lost. Charles piloted one of the last planes to leave the ship before she sank Oct. 25, 1944. The VC10 squadron reformed and was assigned to the USS Fanshaw Bay, staging out of Adak for Hokido, for the invasion of Japan. The Fanshaw Bay dropped anchor in Mitsu Bay and was the first Navy carrier to drop anchor in Japanese homeland waters during the signing of the Japanese surrender.
Charles' experience as a fighter pilot during the Battle of Leyte Gulf is one of the stories recounted in "The Men of the Gambier Bay," by Edwin P. Hoyt. For his service, Charles was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Air Medals, a Presidential Unit Citation and a Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. 
After the war, Charles returned to Bend and joined his father in the family business, The Bend Iron Works. In 1949 he took a semi-portable sawmill, manufactured at the Iron Works, to Mitchell, Ore., and began a career in saw milling. Charles owned and operated mills in Crescent City and Garberville, Calif., before moving to New Mexico in 1965 where he founded Otero Mills Inc. with his two sons, Charles J. "Hank" Dugan and Mark E. Dugan, cutting and processing timber on the Mescalero Apache Reservation under contract with the Mescalero Apache Tribe.
He later purchased the Jackson sawmill in Alamogordo and moved the mill operation to Alamogordo. Otero Mills was sold in 1984. Charles became a real estate agent and joined his wife in their business, Hyde Park West Realty. In 1996, the couple retired and moved to Henderson, Nev., returning often to visit friends and family in Alamogordo.
While living in Alamogordo, Charles was active in the community, serving as chairman of the Alamogordo Airport Advisory Board, the Chamber of Commerce Committee of 50, the Alamogordo Realtors Association and St. Jude's Catholic Church. He also was a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; the Order of Daedalians, a fraternal order of military pilots, and a life member of the Fraternal Order of Elks, Lodge 1897.
Charles was preceded in death by his parents; his sons, "Hank" Dugan and Mark Dugan; and his daughter, Diane Dugan Arias; two sisters and his brother-in-law, Eunice and Roy Benson and Kay Dugan; and a brother-in-law, Ian Jackson.
He is survived by his beloved wife, Maureen; daughter Margaret "Molly" Dugan and her daughter Jessica, of Colorado Springs, Colo.; his step-daughter Karen E. Duprey, Michael R. Settanni and daughter Alexis Victoria; son-in-law Rick Arias, all of Alamogordo; grandchildren and great-grandchildren Cathy Vaughan, husband Travis and daughters Kenna and Kaitlin, of Lavern, Okla.; Jennifer Arias, of Naples, Fla., Becky Englehardt, husband Tim and daughter Addison, of Phoenix, Kyle Dugan, wife Marta and children Darby and Sutton Edward and Kara Dugan, of Cedar Park, Texas, and Krista Reeger and husband Luke, of Lubbock, Texas; brothers-in-law Roy Jackson and wife Joyce, and Neil Jackson, residing in England.
Charles loved life, loved to travel and made lifelong friends wherever he went. He was known for his wonderful sense of humor and his great generosity of spirit.
Charles has been cremated at his request at PCS under the care of Alamogordo Funeral Home. 
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Jude's Mission Friday, Feb. 8, 2008, at 2 p.m., with Father Wayne D. Herpin, S.J., as celebrant. 
To sign the online register book, please visit www.alamogordofuneralhome.org.
Published in Alamogordo Daily News from Feb. 5 to Feb. 19, 2008
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